Police deport man arrested in connection with Artur brothers case

The Immigration Department has deported Godzine Sargyasan, the French national who was identified as one of the Artur brothers, in compliance with a police request.

In a statement issued today, police said Godzine Sargyasan had registered a company in the Maldives to invest in the tourism industry, but had obtained an import/export license for products not related to the tourism industry.

According to police he also registered a local investment and became affiliated with gangs in Male’, to the point he was assisting them and became involved in assault.

Police said allowing such persons to do business in the Maldives posed a threat to the national security and put the economy of the country in danger.

In April, police issued statement asking for public assistance in locating Godzine Sargsyan and a Maldivian involved with him. The pair surrendered to police in May.

Local newspapers reported they had been living in the Marble Guest House before surrendering themselves to police. Police later searched the guest house after arresting the two men.

The Criminal Court recently confirmed that Godzine Sargyasan had been charged with assault and battery, cases related to fraud, and providing invalid documents to government institutions.

Photos of the Arturs in the company of two Maldivian cabinet ministers initially emerged on social media, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

A company named ‘Artur Brothers World Connections’ was registered in the Maldives in October 2012, with the Artur brothers holding an 80 percent share in a 61-19 percent split.

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Police arrest third suspect in connection to Artur brothers investigation

Police in the Maldives have confirmed the arrest of a third suspect linked to ongoing investigations into the alleged criminal activities of two foreign nationals identified as the Artur brothers.

A police media spokesperson confirmed that 28 year-old Maldives national Ahmed Vishal had been taken into custody yesterday (June 2) on suspicion of being connected – in an as yet unspecified way – to the Artur brothers’ operations in the country.  The Arturs have come under scrutiny from Maldives authorities after being linked in local media with alleged drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya.

Police declined to give more details on the specific charges against Visham, who was reported in local media as having been detained on a sixth floor apartment of a building in Male’.

Visham is the third suspect along with fellow Maldivian Ahmed Nishan and French national Godzine Sargsyan to be detained by police in relation to investigation into the Artur Brother’s presence in the country.

Police issued a statement in April asking for public assistance in locating Godzine, who along with Nishan later surrendered themselves to authorities.  Police officers then proceeded to conduct a search of the Marble Guest House in Male’ where the suspects were alleged to have stayed.

The Criminal Court last month agreed to extend the detention of both Nishan and Godzine, who has been identified by authorities as one of the Artur brothers.

The court stated at the time that police had charged the pair with assault and battery, cases related to fraud, and providing invalid documents to government institutions.

Photos

Photos of the Arturs in the company of the two Maldivian ministers emerged on social media, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

A letter from the Tourism Ministry to immigration authorities requesting a residency visa for Margaryan and Sargayan Artur, dated January 27 and signed by Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb, was subsequently leaked on social media.

A company named ‘Artur Brothers World Connections’ was registered in the Maldives in October 2012, with the Artur brothers holding an 80 percent share in a 61-19 percent split.

French nationals identified as Godzine Sargsyan and Edga Sargsyan had a 10 and 7 percent share, while a Maldivian national Ismail Waseem of H. Ever Chance was listed as holding the remaining 3 percent.

Waseem’s share was subsequently transferred to Abdulla Shaffath of H. Ever Peace on November 25.

Meanwhile, on April 8, reports in local media suggested that Zaidul Khaleel, General Manager of the Club Faru resort, operated by the state-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), had been dismissed after he was found to have paid the brothers’ US$6000 bill.

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Hoax photo of Nasheed meeting Artur Brothers circulated by State Defence Minister turns into meme

A photograph widely distributed by local media outlets depicting former President Mohamed Nasheed and his Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki meeting the infamous Armenian ‘Artur Brothers’ has turned out to be a hoax.

The Armenian brothers – linked with drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya – were recently photographed with current Minster of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb and Defence Minister Ahmed Nazim during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge, organised by the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).

The two ministers initially denied any involvement with the brothers or their apparent business interests in the Maldives, however a letter from the Tourism Ministry to immigration authorities requesting a residency visa for Margaryan and Sargsyan Artur, dated January 27 and signed by Adheeb, was subsequently leaked on social media.

Zaidul Khaleel, General Manager of the Club Faru resort which is operated by the state-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC),  has also reportedly been sacked after he was found to have paid the brothers’ US$6000 bill.

Meanwhile, on Sunday a photo depicting former President Nasheed and Special Envoy and former SAARC Secretary General Ibrahim Hussain Zaki apparently meeting Artur Sargsyan was leaked on social media and widely republished by local media.

Local media outlet Channel News Maldives (CNM) reported that the photograph was originally leaked by the former Immigration Controller and current State Minister for Defence, Ilyas Hussain.

However the photograph turned out to be an edited photo taken during a formal reception for US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, held at the former Presidential residence of Muleaage in January 2011, with Sargsyan Artur’s head carefully photo-shopped onto Steinberg.

According to CNM, Ilyas at the time confirmed to the media outlet that the photo of Nasheed with Artur Sargsyan was real and authentic.

Speaking to Minivan News, Ilyas Hussain stated that he no longer wished to comment on the matter.

Following the publication of the leaked photo, a member of President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) told Minivan News that Waheed had prepared a press conference following the release of the edited photo, but later called it off after the photo was discovered to be a hoax.

Minivan News was unable to confirm the claim as President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad was not responding at time of press.

The photo has since gone viral across Maldivian social media and has been widely photoshopped to depict Nasheed meeting a wide variety of celebrities and fictional characters.

The meme has blossomed to include Nasheed encountering deceased Chairman of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Justin Beiber, Professional Wrestler/Rapper/Actor John Cena, the Pope, popular antagonist of the Star Wars franchise Darth Vader, fictional lead character in the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy ‘Dictator’ Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen, DC Comics superhero Batman, Rowan Atkinson’s UK comedy icon Mr Bean, and ‘Big Bird’ from US children’s television show Sesame Street.

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President “unaware of any illegal activities” as Artur brothers investigation continues

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has told local media he was not aware of any danger posed by the presence in the Maldives of two Armenian nationals identified as the Artur brothers, as police continue to investigate the duo’s operations locally.

Controversy has surrounded the presence of Margaryan and Sargayan Artur in the Maldives, primarily based around concerns over their alleged links to criminal activities in Kenya.

On Tuesday (April 2), parliament passed an extraordinary motion concerning the presence of the two foreign nationals in the Maldives, expressing concern that an alleged connection between certain cabinet ministers and the two men posed a “direct threat to national security”.

The President’s Office has maintained there is little information about the nature of the two foreign nationals’ business interests in the Maldives, claiming that the uncertainty about them extended to the exact pronunciation of the Artur name.

Asked about the controversy today, President Waheed told reporters he received no intelligence so far linking the Artur brothers to any criminal activity in the country, adding that much of his knowledge on them was based on local media reports.

“I know that they are in Maldives. I’m also looking into it,” he was quoted he told local media after returning to Male’ from an official visit to Kuwait.

“I didn’t know that they were engaged in any illegal activities,” President Waheed stated, after admitting the government were told by authorities of the brother’s presence in the country earlier this year.

Investigations

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad said that while police were currently in the process of investigating the activities of the Artur brothers in the Maldives, there was no information linking the two foreign nationals to any criminal operations in the country.

Police spokesperson Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that police investigations were continuing to determine if the two foreign nationals had been conducting any illegal activities in the country.  He added that no details into a “critical” ongoing case could be given at present.

However, a BMW car belonging to a company called ‘Artur Brother World Connection’ and registered for use in the Gaafu Dhaalu area was reportedly seized by authorities in Male’ today.

Haneef previously confirmed that police were aware of the Artur brothers presence in the Maldives back in January. He said authorities had contacted “relevant government authorities” at the time to inform them of the Artur brothers’ alleged links to drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets, dealings with senior government officials and other serious crimes in Kenya.

Minivan News understands that relevant authorities, including the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), Ministry of Home Affairs, and the President’s Office were officially informed in January of the presence of the Artur brothers, even as Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb signed a letter seeking residency permits for the pair.

Import business

Local media reported that a company registered locally as the “Artur Brothers World Connection” has secured an import license and brought goods into the country after the tourism ministry had granted both men a foreign investment permit.

“We have learned that they had imported some goods under that license. We haven’t been able to determine what those items are. It is not something the Ministry keeps track of. We have to find that out from the customs,” Finance Minister Ahmed Mohamed told Haveeru.

Immigration Controller Mohamed Ali has previously told local media that Artur Sargasyan left the Maldives on Sunday (March 31). Sargasyan first entered the Maldives on a tourist visa in August 2012 and returned again in October, Dr Ali said.

Meanwhile, photos of the Arturs in the company of Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim emerged on social media last weekend, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

One photo showed Artur Sargsyan next to Adheeb and Nazim, while another has him apparently starting one of the motorcycle races at the event, which was organised by the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).

Another image showed Sargsyan at the red carpet opening for the Olympus Cinema.

Denials

Defense Minister Nazim and Tourism Minister Adheeb have denied any involvement with the pair.

Speaking to Minivan News this week, Adheeb reiterated that he had no personal links with the Artur brothers, whom he said had now left the country on his recommendation.

According to Adheeb, the Artur brothers had previously invested in the country through a registered joint venture company with members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Adheeb said he “advised them to leave peacefully and they agreed to sort out their visa and leave. They have now left.”

Parliamentary motion

Submitting a motion to parliament on Tuesday about the Artur’s presence in the Maldives, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy raised concerns about their alleged connections with ministers Nazim and Adheeb.

“The Artur brothers are a direct threat to national security since they are – true to their old style and from the experiences of other countries – directly linked to the top government officials including Mr Mohamed Nazim who is both the Defense Minister and the acting Transport Minister, as well as Mr Ahmed Adheeb who is the Tourism Minister,” Fahmy told Minivan News.

Fahmy said the Artur brothers were believed to have carried out “all sorts of serious illegal activities internationally” and that the Maldives “is incapable of handling these notorious conmen from Armenia. They are capable of taking local criminal gangs to different heights.”

Fahmy explained that immigration laws do not permit entry into the Maldives if the visitor is “even suspected” of being involved in human smuggling or trafficking; may be [considered] a national threat, or otherwise may commit crimes against the state.”

“Given all these facts – and that the Artur brothers are  world-infamous for carrying out criminal activities of this sort – they were allowed into the country and seen publicly with top government officials,” Fahmy added, alleging that the pair have three meetings with Adheeb and Nazim on Hulhumale’ and on Club Faru.

The extraordinary motion passed with 27 votes in favour to 10 against.

Meanwhile, Kenyan media has this week media reported that the brothers’ practice of publicly ingratiating themselves with senior government officials appeared not to have changed.

“The Arturs’ mode of operation where they show up in the company of top and well-connected government leaders appears to have been replicated in the Maldives. Their presence in the Maldives comes days after ousted leader Mohammed Nasheed expressed fear over his life,” reported Kenya’s Daily Nation publication.

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Artur brothers “direct threat to national security”: MP Fahmy

Parliament passed an extraordinary motion today (April 2) expressing concern that cabinet ministers’ connections to the Artur brothers posed a “direct threat to national security”.

Police meanwhile revealed they became aware of the Artur brothers presence in the Maldives in January, and launched an investigation to determine if they had been conducting any illegal activities in the country.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News police had contacted “relevant government authorities” in January to inform them of the Artur brothers’ links to drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets, dealings with senior government officials and other serious crimes in Kenya.

He was reluctant to share any further details given that “this is still an open case under investigation”.

Minivan News understands that relevant authorities, including the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), Ministry of Home Affairs, and the President’s Office were officially informed in January of the presence of the Artur brothers, even as Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb signed a letter seeking residency permits for the pair.

Immigration Controller Mohamed Ali told local media that Artur Sargasyan left the Maldives on Sunday (March 31). Sargasyan first entered the Maldives on a tourist visa in August 2012 and returned again in October, Ali said. Sargasyan’s associate is still in the Maldives at a resort in Male’ Atoll, Ali told local media.

Photos of the Arturs in the company of Adheeb and Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim emerged on social media over the weekend, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

One photo showed Artur Sargsyan next to Adheeb and Nazim, while another has him apparently starting one of the motorcycle races at the event, which was organised by the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF). Another image showed Sargsyan at the red carpet opening for the Olympus Cinema.

Meanwhile the Artur’s US$6000 bill at the Club Faru resort – recently taken over by the government-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) – was paid by a ”top official of the resort management”, according to Haveeru.

Picking up the story today, Kenyan media reported that the brothers’ practice of publicly ingratiating themselves with senior government officials appeared not to have changed.

“The Arturs’ mode of operation where they show up in the company of top and well-connected government leaders appears to have been replicated in the Maldives. Their presence in the Maldives comes days after ousted leader Mohammed Nasheed expressed fear over his life,” reported Kenya’s Daily Nation publication.

Parliament concerned about connections with cabinet ministers

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy submitted the motion to parliament to raise concerns about the Artur brothers’ presence in the country and their possible connections with Nazim and Adheeb.

“The Artur brothers are a direct threat to national security since they are – true to their old style and from the experiences of other countries – directly linked to the top government officials including Mr Mohamed Nazim who is both the Defense Minister and the acting Transport Minister, as well as Mr Ahmed Adheeb who is the Tourism Minister,” Fahmy told Minivan News.

“These are the most crucial government ministries with which the Artur brothers are looking to have special links to achieve their objectives,” he contended.

Fahmy said the Artur brothers were believed to have carried out “all sorts of serious illegal activities internationally” and that the Maldives “is incapable of handling these notorious conmen from Armenia. They are capable of taking local criminal gangs to different heights.”

Fahmy explained that immigration laws do not permit entry into the Maldives if the visitor is “even suspected” of being involved in human smuggling or trafficking; may be [considered] a national threat, or otherwise may commit crimes against the state.”

“Given all these facts – and that the Artur brothers are  world-infamous for carrying out criminal activities of this sort – they were allowed into the country and seen publicly with top government officials,” Fahmy added, alleging that the pair have three meetings with Adheeb and Nazim on Hulhumale’ and on Club Faru.

National security concerns politicised

While the extraordinary motion passed with 27 votes in favour to 10 against,  most MPs from non-MDP parties “were not in favor of this serious issue”, Fahmy claimed.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security will “seriously look into the matter”, however because it is not an MDP-majority committee, Fahmy believes said it would not be easy for the opposition to hold Nazim and Adheeb accountable.

“You could see how much the Artur brothers have penetrated into the parliament from the number of no votes for this motion today,” he claimed.

During today’s parliamentary debate the MDP was accused of being connected with the Artur brothers by MPs, who claimed the Maldivian shareholder in a company registered by the brothers was affiliated with the party.

Ismail Waseem of H. Ever Chance was listed as holding a 3 percent share in ‘Artur Brothers World Connections’, registered in the Maldives in October 2012.

Waseem’s share was subsequently transferred to Abdulla Shaffath of H. Ever Peace on November 25.

“No member holding a position in the party has anything to do with the Artur brothers,” Fahmy claimed. “Instead President Dr Waheed Hassan Manik, or his top government officials, are known to have been directly involved with them. It is this coup-government that has brought those conmen into this country,” Fahmy said.

Today’s parliamentary session was prolonged for an additional hour due to the extraordinary motion submitted.

Denials

Defense Minister Nazim and Tourism Minister Adheeb have meanwhile denied any involvement with infamous pair of Armenian brothers.

“I came to know about them after the rumours started spreading on social media networks. But no country had informed of us anything officially,” local media reported Nazim as saying.

“To my knowledge those two men have left the Maldives,” he said.

Adheeb acknowledged meeting the brothers during the Piston Cup event, but bemoaned to Haveeru how “information about this issue is being spread by the media rather negatively. I have no links with them.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Adheeb reiterated that he had no personal links with the Artur brothers, whom he said had now left the country on his recommendation.

According to Adheeb, the Artur brothers had previously invested in the country through a registered joint venture company with members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Adheeb said he “advised them to leave peacefully and they agreed to sort out their visa and leave. They have now left.”

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